Increased smartphone adoption and mobile broadband penetration will drive the number of mobile VoIP (mVoIP) subscribers from 47 million in 2010 to nearly 410 million by 2015, according to Infonetics’ “Mobile VoIP Services and Subscribers” report.

Over-the-Top (OTT) service providers, such as market leader Skype, dominate the global mVoIP services market. mVoIP services are generating little in the way of revenue per user, however. In 2010, mVoIP providers earned an average $13.21 per user per year from mVoIP services.

Telecompetitors will soon be entering the frame as well. Verizon’s voice over LTE (VoLTE) is scheduled to launch sometime in 2012. Native mVoIP services from telecoms carriers will account for only a small portion of the overall mVoIP market until full LTE coverage is available around the world, however. That’s not likely until around 2020, according to Infonetics’ research.

“The adoption of over-the-top (OTT) mobile VoIP services is growing rapidly but it is not without challenges,” Diane Myers, Infonetics’ directing analyst for VoIP and IMS.

“With free applications and extremely low revenue from users, it is tricky for application providers without the deep pockets of larger companies like Google, Microsoft, and Telefónica to have a sustainable long-term business model. Despite the fact that we expect mobile VoIP subscribers to grow nearly 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, there is relatively little money to be made from it in the near term.”

In contrast, telecompetitors will migrate their TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) voice services – a $500 billion-a-year business – to native mobile VoIP (VoLTE) as LTE becomes the industry standard for mobile services infrastructure, added report co-author Stephane Teral.

Two key challenges need to be met over the near term, he added: VoLTE handsets need to be widely available and Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) needs to be finalized in order to ensure that voice calls between legacy and LTE networks are routed seamlessly. The telecom industry is nowhere near achieving the first.

Nonetheless, “VoLTE is the future,” Teral said, “it will just take many years to get there.”

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